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Looking Ahead: The 2014 Formula 1 Season

The calendar says January 25, which means there are only 47 days left until the first free practice session of the 2014 Formula 1 season kicks off at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia! From there, the teams move to Malaysia, and they will continue to race across the globe in a total of 19 races, with the final race of the season being held in Abu Dhabi in November. This is a big change to the calendar, as the last race of the season usually is held in Brazil. In addition to the change of usual location of the last race, there are a few new destinations on the 2014 Formula 1 calendar. For the first time in history, Russia will host a round of the Formula One World Championship. The location is the Sochi International Street Circuit, in the city that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Another piece of good news on the 2014 calendar is that Formula 1 will return to Austria for the first time in 10 year with a race on the Red Bull Ring. New circuits are always interesting, so this is really something to look forward to.

As with every new season, there are a few notable driver changes. Mark Webber has left Formula 1 after twelve seasons and is now racing a Porsche 919 Hybrid in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Mark Webber was a highly respected Formula 1 driver and many fans will without doubt continue to follow his new career and realize that endurance racing is a great motor sport as well. Webber is replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, who moves from Red Bulls “junior” Formula 1 team, Toro Rosso. 2013 GP3 Series champion Daniil Kvyat replaces Ricciardo at Toro Rosso. Kvyat is not the only new rookie driver coming to Formula 1 in 2014, he is joined by Swede Marcus Ericsson (Caterham) and Dane Kevin Magnussen (McLaren). This means that every Scandinavian country, with the exception of Norway, now have at least one driver in Formula 1. Finland even has two, Kimi Räikkönen (moves from Lotus to Ferrari this season) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams). As a Norwegian, I have to admit that this is a bit embarrassing, and to add insult to injury, we’ve never actually had a Formula 1 driver and it doesn’t really look like we’ll have one in the foreseeable future either.

But even if calendar and driver changes are always intriguing, those changes are hardly comparable to the new 2014 engine regulations and the addition of one of the dumbest sporting regulations in the history of Formula 1.

For the first time since 1988, turbocharged engines will be used. The engines will be a 1.6 litre V6 with an 8-speed semi automatic gearbox. The 2013 engine was a 2.4 litre V8 engine, which had been the regulation since 2006. A turbocharged V6 engine makes a very different noise than a non-turbocharged V8 engine, and for many Formula 1 fans the sound of the engine is holy. So, not surprisingly, there have been a lot of different reactions to how the 2014 engine sounds. Personally, I think it sounds awesome, but you can judge by yourself from the short video Mercedes released yesterday:

The real challenge for the teams and engine makers this season will be to make reliable engines based on brand new regulations. I suspect we will see a lot more engine failure this year than we have been seeing over the last couple of seasons.

There are actually quite a lot of changes to the technical regulations this season, and every team do their best to get the most speed out of their car based on the regulations. This often results in some very interesting designs, which we’ve seen in the last few days as some of the teams have begun to reveal their cars. Reactions have been mixed, with many Formula 1 fans feeling that the 2014 are rather ugly. Once again, you can judge yourself. Here are some of the cars that have been revealed:

“For us the look is not exactly the main thing, it’s if the car is fast or not…” — Kimi Räikkönen

The Ferrari, in particular, has been called a lot of different things, but I don’t think it looks bad at all. And does the look of the car really matter that much? Kimi Räikkönen put it very well during today’s Ferrari release press conference: “For us the look is not exactly the main thing, it’s if the car is fast or not…” Exactly! Interestingly enough, the car was named Scuderia Ferrari F14 T after an online vote, and many people were quick to point out that it F14 T spells FIAT. Someone didn’t think this through, but kudos to Ferrari for sticking with the result of the online vote.

There has also been a few changes to the sporting regulations this season, and one in particular stands out: The final race of the season will offer double points to drivers. What the fuck is that all about? It’s done in a bid to keep the championship fight alive for longer, but a regulation like this is just stupid. Double points implies that the last race is somehow twice as challenging as the other races, but that is not the case. I’m all for keeping the championship fight alive, especially if Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) turns out to be as dominant as he has been in the previous four seasons, but awarding double points for the last race isn’t the right way to solve it. Formula 1 fans have pretty much unanimously agreed that double points is crazy, and there have even been teams and drivers who have voiced their concern. Unfortunately, FIA has decided to not listen to anyone, as they sometimes do, and the double points rule is here to stay. Luckily, there’s a long time until the last race, and hopefully they have come to their senses by then. Let’s hope that everything else that’s new will end Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel’s dominance so we won’t need this idiotic double points regulation. Although I’m a big Red Bull and Vettel fan and very impressed with what the team and the driver has accomplished since 2010, Formula 1 as a sport needs them to stop being so dominant. That the championship is decided several races before the last race sort of dampens the excitement.

With all the changes, new cars, new engines, new drivers and new tracks, the 2014 Formula One Championship season shows enormous potential. As we Formula 1 fans always tell ourselves at the start of each season: “This year is going to be different. This year every race will be exciting.” And even though we know we’re lying to ourselves, we’ll be there to watch every single race, from FP1 to the Champagne bottles are opened.

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